Bioenergy, Geothermal, Hydropower, Project Development, Solar

Proposed Budget Cuts Key Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy

The White House Fiscal Year 2006 budget request for the U.S. Department of Energy’s energy efficiency and renewable energy (EE/RE) programs has once again been reduced, this time by nearly US$ 50 million — an overall cut of roughly 4 percent.

Solar energy and wind power dodged the axe, retaining the approximate level of funding they enjoyed this year, even gaining a new initiative on the solar side (see above story), but other renewable energy and energy efficiency budgets took some hard hits in the President’s US$ 2.5 trillion proposed budget plan. Specific cuts include: – $18.3 million cut in Industrial Energy Efficiency (-24.5%) – $15.9 million cut in Biomass and Biorefinery Systems R&D (-18.1%) – $7.5 million cut in Building Energy Efficiency (-11.5%) – $4.4 million cut in Hydropower (-89.7%) – $3.8 million cut in Distributed Energy Resources (-6.3%) – $2.0 million cut in Geothermal Technology (-7.8%) – $1.1 million cut in Solar Energy (-1.3%) The overall EE/RE reductions appear less drastic only because of significant increases for the hydrogen program (5%: $94,066 to 99,094) and the fuel cells program (12%: $74,944 to $83,600), said the Sustainable Energy Coalition, a Washington-based organization representing a wide variety of renewable energy and energy efficiency interests. The Sustainable Energy Coalition supports both fuel cell and renewable hydrogen development and has advocated funding increases for them as well as an overall doubling of the federal sustainable energy budget over the next five years. However, the Coalition strongly opposes cutting key efficiency and renewable energy programs or skewing funding towards just a handful of technologies currently favored by the Administration. “With this request, the Administration is continuing its policy of slowly bleeding the budgets for most of its core renewable energy and energy efficiency programs with cut after cut after cut — a policy that ignores the consumer, job creation, national security, and rural economic development benefits of sustainable energy technologies,” said the Coalition in a budget reaction statement. Carol Werner, Executive Director of the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) called on the President and Congress to fully fund these important programs. “In his most recent State of the Union address, the President said the United States needs ‘reliable supplies of affordable, environmentally responsible energy,’ and urged Congress to ‘pass legislation that makes America more secure and less dependent on foreign energy,'” Werner said. “This is an admirable goal, but there is a disconnect between the president’s words and the funding priorities he has laid out in his fiscal year 2006 budget.” Budget cuts related to energy and the environment would have further effects than just the EE/RE programs above. The Bush Administration is known for being particularly resistant to even an acknowledgement of climate change and that attitude is reflected in some specific cuts to next year’s budget for the Environmental Protection Agency. The president’s budget calls for $517 million cut in EPA’s overall budget (a 6.4% cut from FY05 appropriations). The cut specifically includes a $42 million cut in the Clean Air and Global Climate Change Program (a 4.2% cut from the FY 05 president’s budget). The President’s budget is only a proposal and will need to be acted on or amended by Congress, which has so far expressed a low level of support, even from some prominent republican legislators. Congress will begin the process of reconciliation, with a tentative date of April 15 to reach consensus on a budget resolution. For more information on the proposed budget for solar research, including a new initiative aimed at improving the silicon feedstock market, see the link below.